Many executives in the direct response industry received news on Friday that the Electronic Retailing Organization (ERA) has closed its doors. As I’ve watched and been an active participant in the industry for almost 20 years I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I’m certainly sad to see the organization go away considering what it has meant to our company over the years.
I started Strategic Media in June of 2000 and a short time afterwards the annual ERA trade show in Vegas was taking place. A trusted colleague suggested I attend, but I didn’t have the money or the time to leave the office since I was still a one man show. Based on the information he shared along with the insights I had from other contacts in the industry, I needed to make the show a priority the following year.
Early on, the show was about contacts. Who did you know and what introductions could you get? During the early years many new business relationships were formed and friendships developed. We shared ideas and cocktails and built professional networks that are still an important part of our business today.
The ERA was the must-attend show for direct response professionals. It was our chance to get in front of marketers that wanted to meet the best service providers to help them grow their business. When we weren’t walking the halls at the Paris or Wynn hotels we walked the show floor, met with exhibitors, looked for a spot to have our quick meetings and nodded at our friends and competitors as we repeatedly passed each other day after day, year after year.
One of my fondest memories was attending the show with my wife in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The directors of the ERA organized a volunteer effort to help paint a giant fence at a farm. With anticipation of warm southern weather, we were all shocked and frozen by the overcast skies and temperatures in the low 40’s. Even for those of us from the northeast, it was a brisk event, but one that pulled the community of ERA members closer together.
I would personally like to thank the ERA, its members and its directors over the years. You’ve made an impact on our business and helped our company cultivate many friendships and professional relationships that shaped who we are today. We’ll miss our annual trip to Vegas, but be reminded by this that we must always keep our clients’ goals and objectives in focus and as our primary objective.